Lebanon today foiled an Israeli airborne commando operation near the village of Nsariyyeh, 16 kilometers north of the city of Tyre in South Lebanon, and 45 kilometers north of the Israeli border. Twelve Israeli soldiers were reported killed and 4 others wounded in a triple clash with the Lebanese Army troops deployed in the area and resistance fighters belonging to Hizbullah and Amal Movement.
Repelling the attack, 3 Amal Movement fighters, 2 Hizbullah fighters and one Lebanese Army soldier were wounded during the confrontation.
On the civilian side, a Palestinian woman and her baby were killed and their driver wounded when their car came under accidental fire from the attackers.
A Lebanese Army communique issued later the same day said that at "at dawn on September 5, 1997, an Israeli enemy airborne force landed near the villages of Nsariyyeh and Loubieh in Zahrani. The Israeli force was spotted by the Lebanese Army troops deployed in the area who took the initiative of firing at it and has launched parachute flares to confuse the attackers. The confrontation continued for over 2 hours, and was joined in by the residents. The confrontation resulted in inflicting an estimate of 20 deaths and injuries in the ranks of the attacking force. Compelled to withdraw, the attacking force left behind it some torn up bodies. During the confrontation, a Lebanese Army post was hit, a woman and an infant girl were killed, and an army soldier plus 6 civilians were wounded". The communiqué also warned the inhabitants against approaching suspicious looking objects left over by the Israeli force.
Checking later the scene of the clashes, Lebanese Army explosive experts found 7 Israeli-planted explosive devices and blew them up.
Israel's Prime Minister Bejamine Netanyahu following the news of the Israeli casualties said, "this is a day of profound agony and of multiple grief for the Israeli People", and described the dead soldiers as "Israel's best fighters". Later in the evening, an Israeli military investigation committee said the target of the Israeli force was a command base belonging to Amal Movement.
News reports today said this was a major failure since the creation of Israel, and the most painful since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Lebanese army troops and resistance fighters from Hizbullah and Amal Movement joined hands in repelling the invading force. Falling under heavy fire, the Israeli unit was airlifted by Israeli helicopters taking off from navy vessels off Lebanon's shore. An Israeli helicopter rocketed a Lebanese army post while firing antiaircraft artillery at the raiding force. Four Lebanese soldiers were reportedly wounded. One hour after the landing at about 1:30 a.m. at dawn today, Israeli helicopters trying to evacuate the casualties, failed three times to land at a football field near the village of Nsariyyeh. Meanwhile, Israeli navy artillery took on shelling the coastal area of Sarafand, and at 2:45 a.m. Israeli bomber fighters raided the area. Earlier on August 9, 1997, another Israeli airborne unit targeting the southern village of Kfour led to killing 5 people including 4 Islamic resistance officials.
In the wake of the Israeli airborne operation that targeted the Zahrani area at dawn today, Hizbullah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah held on Friday, September 5 a press conference somewhere in the Beirut region of Haret Horeik [a Hizbullah stronghold], and made the following points and conclusions:
1. It is a big Israeli defeat and the first humiliation for the renowned Israeli commandos.
2. Lebanon is not a place for making Israeli victories, neither is it a place for raising Israeli morale or ease off its anger in times of crises.
3. On the contrary, since 1982 and until now, Lebanon has in fact been a place for creating Israeli defeats, and will remain so.
4. The resistance benefited from the Kfour airborne operation to increase its state of alert and set ambushes and roadside bombs to hunt Israeli infiltrates.
5. Israel did not find in Lebanon anyone to trust with planting explosive devises and roadside bombs. So it had to send its soldiers to Lebanon to do the job.
6. Lebanon is a place where Israel will find no solution or option except pulling out without conditions or gains or treaties and in humiliating way, carrying regrets for the losses it incurred in Lebanon.
On another note, Nasrallah considered that the performance of the Government could be better, especially if the friendships that led to the convening of the "Friends of Lebanon" conference in Washington could be utilized.
After the press conference, Hizbullah displayed at the premises of its information unit parts and remains of the killed Israeli soldiers. Four legs, some limbs, and some military equipment and rifles were displayed. Referring to the matter, Nasrallah said this might be useful for a swap with the fighters detained in Israeli jails.
Amal Movement Leader and House Speaker Nabih Berri, inaugurating a public hospital donated by Kuwait at the city of Nabatieh in south Lebanon today, said the target of Israeli airborne operation was to blast an Amal Movement command office near the village of Nsariyyeh. Berri hailed the Lebanese army and the resistance and said Israel has as usual failed to overcome Lebanon.
Prime Minister Rafik Hariri today telephoned French President Jacques Chirac and briefed him on the Israeli overnight commando landing operation. Hariri also called US officials and gave them details about attack which came days before the forthcoming visit of the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright next Tuesday. Hariri ruled out that the attack today was a reaction to the Jerusalem's bombing. He said the attack was planned in advance and was a translation of Netanyahu's hardline policy. He said it is obvious now the solution is political.
The Israeli Daily Jerusalem Post quoted Israel's Defense Minister Yitzhac Mordakhai as saying that Israel is prepared to start talks with the Lebanese Army and the Lebanese government about changing the shape of the security zone. He said Israel is ready to negotiate a withdrawal from the Jezzine area and reach a settlement with Lebanon in a few days time. "The depth of the withdrawal should be equal to the depth of peace, he said. "We need to follow up any road that leads to an agreement, either directly or indirectly, so that security is ensured and we are out of Lebanon". The Israeli labor party praised the statement made by Mordakhai, and said that he has in fact adopted the Party plan in this respect.
SLA commander Antoine Lahd during a joint SLA-Israeli military exercise at a training camp near Majidiyeh in south Lebanon yesterday, said the SLA will not back off the road it has taken to ensure security and peace on both sides of the border. He said the measures adopted by the Lebanese government with regard to the new identity card aims at depriving the residents of the border strip from their Lebanese nationality. He said, "we shall obtain our Lebanese identity even if by force, and we shall not replace it by the Israeli, American or European identity". He also demanded of the border strip residents not to apply for the new identity until the entire issue is resolved. "And if Israel has an interest to pull out of the South let it do so", he said. "I have no objection to that".
-Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat today said the suicide bombers responsible for the recent Jerusalem bombing did not come from the Palestinian self-rule areas. He said the evidence is their stating that the bombing was in retaliation for the victims of the Israeli artillery shelling of Sidon. A Palestinian official also hinted that Syria and Iran are behind the bombing.
-House speaker Nabih Berri speaking to a delegation of the "Union of Arab-American Associations" in Argentine (Via Voice of Arab) said it is necessary to unite the potentials of Lebanese and Arab expatriates in order to support Arab fair causes. He also explained to the delegation the power of the Lebanese in diaspora and pointed out that Lebanese emigrants are active in 19 parliaments around the world.
-US Ambassador to Lebanon Richard Jones accompanied by the Embassy's new Charge D'Affaires Greg Berry visited Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and Deputy Speaker Elie Firzli. After the visit, Jones said that the upcoming visit by the US Secretary of State Madleine Albright to the region aims at pushing the peace process forward. Replying to question, he said he has nothing to say about Albright's possible visit to Lebanon.
-Industry Minister Nadim Salem and Deputy Suleiman Kanaan, both from Jezzine, after a visit to the Prime Minister Hariri said the purchase of the apple produce of Jezzine has brought the town back to the map of Lebanon. Kanaan said it is a step that helps the steadfastness of the people there, and demanded reopening the Kfar Falous crossing and the return of the people who were obliged to evacuate the area.
-Former Speaker Hussein Husseini said that holding a cabinet session in the absence of the President of the Republic was a constitutional and positive move pouring in the interest of the Council of Ministers as an institution.
-Head of the Islamic Shiite Higher Council Sheikh Mohammad Mahdi Shamseddine yesterday said the US-Israeli-Turkish military exercises in the Mediterranean is a complicity against the Arab Nation and a pressure on Syria. Shamseddine called for boycotting the Doha Economic Conference, and expressed his rejection of the US policy of "blackmail" against the Arabs and Syria.
-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's "National Resolve" parliamentary bloc appealed in a meeting yesterday to the international community to bring the stalled peace processes out of the impasse. The bloc condemned the Turkish-Israeli military exercises, and urged the Lebanese people to enhance their national solidarity and face the schemes aiming at striking their unity. The bloc also recalled that the Central Fund for the Displaced did not pay compensations for damages in Beirut.
-The National Syrian Socialist Party (NSSP) yesterday said the visit to the Middle East by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright aims at salvaging the Doha Economic Conference, and inducing Gulf states to turn against the growing atmosphere of openness, especially the current rapprochement between Syria and Iraq.
-Visiting Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Emilio Caballero yesterday announced that Lebanon and Cuba are considering a draft agreement aiming at improving trade and economic relations between the two countries. Cabarello visited yesterday Deputy Speaker Elie Firzli, Trade and Economy Minister Yassine Jaber and the Chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Deputy Ali Al Khalil.
-Information Minister Bassem Sabbaa's office denied news saying he gave permission to some radio stations to broadcast once again. The Minister's office reaffirmed that the Interior and Information Ministries gave instruction to implement the government's decision with regard to closing these stations.
-The Maronite League after its Council's meeting said yesterday it is against the current opposition to naturalizing Lebanese expatriates, and the imposition of certain terms and conditions against the emigrants' right of affiliation to their homeland.
-The Phalange Party Immigration Board starts today in Cleveland, Ohio, a three-day session of the Phalange Party Second Immigrants' conference. The first was held in Paris under former President Amine Gemayel. The conference will include heads of the Phalange Party branches in the US to reactivate the resolutions adopted in Paris.
-Palestinian refugees in Lebanon continued their sit-ins off the UNRWA offices in Beirut and the Ain Al Helweh camp. The sit-in is in protest to UNRWA's reduction of social and medical services to the refugees.
-An Iraqi economic delegation is due to visit Lebanon mid August. The visit was earlier postponed subsequent to banning Iraqi athletes from participating in the 8th Pan Arab Games in Beirut. Head of Lebanon's Chamber of Commerce and Industry Adnan Kassar received the news from the Iraqi ambassador to Jordan.
-Ansar renewed its beat of the Arabi Kuwaitee football team with 1-0 and qualified to move to the second phase of the Asian clubs cup.
-Second phase of the 38th Lebanese Football Championship Dawri begins today with a match between Shabab Sahel and Bourj at the Bourj Hammoud stadium. On Saturday, the Ikhaa-Ahli-Aley will play against Hikmeh at the Safa stadium, and Homenmen will play against Safa at Bourj Hammoud.
On Sunday, Riyada wal Adais will play against Homentmen at the Tripoli stadium, and Ahli-Sidon will play against Ahd at Sidon. The Nijmeh-Racing match was postponed to September 19. The Ansar-Tadamoun-Tyre was also postponed to September 27. Ansar and Nijmeh are currently preoccupied with the Asian football matches.
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